SaaS Startup Strategy

Launching your SaaS Startup anytime soon? Use this checklist to develop a marketing strategy for your SaaS startup in the lead up to your big launch. The earlier you are considering the marketing of your product, the better.

  1. Set Your Fundamental Goals

    1. What is the lifestyle that you hope to achieve from the launch of your SaaS product?
    2. What impact do you hope to achieve with your product and what is its purpose?
    3. What goals will you need to fulfill in order to transition from a product launch to a long-term business model?
  2. Identify Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

    1. Do a thorough investigation of the existing competitive landscape and determine how your product is unique in comparison with your nearest competitors
    2. Consider the USPs of products from other industries, even outside of SaaS, for inspiration, to differentiate yours
    3. Identify the problem your USP solves and consider whether it is sufficient reason to pay a monthly fee
    4. A good USP doesn’t make your product great; it makes your customers great
  3. Identify Your Target Audiences

    1. Speak with any existing contacts that you have, about the idea for their feedback
    2. Visit meetups and online discussions related to your product and its industry
    3. Identify locations online and subcultures offline where your target audience is likely to be found
    4. Reach out to competitor’s customers to find out what they like and don’t like
    5. Imagine yourself as the consumer and go on their buying journey
  4. Perform Competitive Research

    1. Make a list of competitors.
    2. Examine their strategies for obtaining press and building word of mouth
    3. Analyze their backlink profile to identify who has linked to them in the past and for what reasons
    4. Analyze their keyword use to identify what has worked for them and what they may be missing
    5. Look primarily for gaps in the market in your competitive research
  5. Develop Your Story And Aim To Incite Emotion

    1. Focus on beginning, middle, and ending, emphasizing the change that has taken place and the lesson learned.
    2. Tie the emotional story back to rational justification
  6. Develop The Lead’s Story

    1. Identify your target audience’s pain points and the problems they face
    2. Identify intelligent efforts they may have taken to solve the problem unsuccessfully
    3. Emphasize how your SaaS will help them overcome barriers and solve their problem
    4. Make a list of ideas to best get this idea across, including fictitious “commercial” stories, testimonials, hypotheticals, videos, etc
  7. PR Preparation

    1. Map out a “media kit” to make it easy for the press to cover your product
    2. Identify the press outlets and discussion communities where you would be most interested in earning press
    3. Develop a strategy for reaching out to media outlets and discussion communities
  8. Website Setup

    1. Map out the information architecture of your site
    2. Get analytics and marketing automation in place as early into the process as possible
    3. Make acquisition of lead information a priority
  9. Develop An Agile Process For Proposing, Testing, Growing, And Dumping Ideas Quickly

    1. Focus on minimum viable products not only in your product development, but also in testing marketing strategies and tactics
    2. Choose your metrics of success with great care
    3. Put ideas up for reevaluation on a regular basis
  10. Get Commitments From Your Audience As Early In The Process As Possible

    1. Focus first on obtaining feedback and contact information
    2. Let early users keep access to your SaaS product to get an audience in place
    3. The primary goal early on in the process is to get people using the product
  11. Acknowledge And Put Feedback To Use As Publicly As Possible

    1. Keep your audience in the loop about the development schedule and how things are coming along
    2. Incorporate feedback from user testing and keep your audience informed through the use of a blog, newsletter, and social media outlets
    3. Be tactful and carefully explain the reasoning behind any decisions to ignore feedback or take things in a different direction
  12. Plan A Media Stunt

    1. Earning press coverage requires being the subject of a news story
    2. Avoid stunts that will ring as desperate or cynical and focus instead of events or actions closely related to your brand’s mission
    3. Put the focus on the most newsworthy element of the SaaS itself and how it is relevant to conversations about current events
  13. Create an Outreach List

    1. Create a list of contacts to reach out to directly, for press and social media buzz
    2. Develop a strategy for obtaining responses from outreach targets
    3. Provide outreach targets with the context they will need to see your email as something other than cold outreach, and the incentive they will need to work with you
    4. Outreach should be done by hand as opposed to through mass mailing campaigns, and should offer a clear reason why the target specifically is being contacted
  14. Decide On Freemium Vs. Free Trial

    1. Freemium earns more discussion and press but puts on more server load and requires more up-front investment
    2. Free trials are less costly per lead but reduce signups and word of mouth
    3. Offering no free trial or freemium option is likely to result in very limited signups and should only be the case for very small markets with very high price points
  15. Develop Your Product Tiers

    1. Multiple product tiers almost universally increase signups
    2. Your lowest product tier must be satisfactory enough for people to see it as better than freemium and not a bad experience to use, and must meet your USP well enough to choose you over competitors
    3. The sky is the limit with your highest product tier, as long as you can deliver what is expected
  16. Develop A Pitch Video

    1. Pitch videos are good for crowdfunding as well as landing pages
    2. Use video for what it is best at: communicating visual and emotional information quickly
    3. Focus on the potential of the product to solve problems and meet the values of your target audience
  17. Be Prepared To Take On Web Traffic, Sales, And Customer Support

    1. Have a customer support strategy and solution in place
    2. Verify that your hosting is adequate to handle a spike in web traffic on launch day that comfortably exceeds your highest expectations
    3. Stress test your SaaS for errors
  18. Set A Launch Date

    1. Consider the potential seasonality of your SaaS
    2. Do not set a launch date, before a minimum viable product is in place
    3. Take other launch dates into consideration, even the ones outside of your industry
  19. Involve Influencers In Testing Or Creating The Product

    1. Influencers can be well-known people in the industry, prominent social media personalities who would find an interest in your products, reviewers, podcasters, and journalists
    2. Involving influencers gives them an emotional connect at the launch, serving as an investment they have contributed in the outcome
    3. Influencer involvement need not be extensive
  20. Share Your Product With Influencers, Journalists, And Reviewers (For Free)

    1. Reach out to influencers with an offer to use the SaaS for free
    2. In your outreach efforts, always give context for why you contacted them specifically
    3. Emphasize the ways in which the product will benefit them specifically, or their audience, rather than the general benefits of the product
  21. Identify Your Key Social Media Platforms, Set Up Your Profiles, And Keep Them Active

    1. It is better to invest heavily in platforms of strategic choice than to spread too thinly
    2. Join already existing conversations and be a part of the discussion
    3. Social media is a place to find leads, not keep them. Transition to email subscription should be the ultimate goal
  22. Stay Active On Quora, Topical Forums, And Social Media Groups

    1. Q&A sites and forums tend to send traffic for extended periods of time if you offer helpful answers. Blog comments can also serve this purpose
    2. Join social media groups where discussions are being held about topics related to the problems that your product solves
    3. Avoid excessive self-promotion. Allow your profile links and signature links to do the talking
  23. Consider Using A Viral Signup Form

    1. A viral signup form requires soliciting others to sign up, in order to use the free trial
    2. This method encourages word of mouth with the drawback of reducing initial conversions, but has increased overall signups for some startups
    3. The exclusivity of a viral signup form can increase the perceived quality of your SaaS
    4. The gated nature of a viral signup form will inevitably put off certain audiences
  24. Develop A Long-Term Blog Strategy

    1. Identify a list of subjects that naturally connects to the types of problems your product solves and to the target audience you are trying to reach
    2. Determine the “unique selling proposition” of your blog, a reason for your target audience to read your blog as opposed to similar blogs
    3. List types of content you will create and the goals that they exist to achieve, such as:
      1. Opinion: To establish brand values that will enhance loyalty with your target audience
      2. How-to: To help readers solve problems before using your SaaS and establish trust that your SaaS will solve the problem it claims to
      3. Current events: To capture traffic off of interest in current events that are tangentially related to your product.
      4. News: To let your audience know about developments happening at the company
      5. Product How-To: To offer unique ways to use your SaaS to solve novel problems as a way of building interest in the product or preserving loyalty in your existing customers
  25. Map Out Your Launch Blog Posts

    1. Determine what your first blog posts will be and the goals they are intended to achieve
    2. Prioritize the transition from blog reader to subscriber
  26. Map Out Your Email Drip

    1. Determine what emails each signup will receive to help them with onboarding the product
    2. Map out email drips to encourage product purchase for those who signed up for a lead asset but not a free trial
  27. Flesh Out Your Lead Acquisition Map

    1. How will leads find out about your product?
    2. Why will leads offer you their email address?
    3. Why will leads keep using your SaaS after the free trial ends?
  28. Make Clean Design A Priority

    1. Let user testing determine where users get hung up in the process of using the product
    2. Make sure the product works cross-platform
  29.  Take Your Site To Content Submission Sites Like Reddit, GrowthHackers and Hacker News

    1. Content submission sites send more traffic than the vast majority of alternatives, except for search engines
    2. Take part in community discussions before submitting your content
    3. Learn the social expectations of the platform before using it and pay close attention to submissions that get “downvoted” for being too self-promotional
  30. Submit Yourself To Betalist, AngelList, And Similar Sites

    1. These sites are built specifically to list startups
  31. Eliminate Any Technical SEO Barriers

    1. Use your keywords in the title tags
    2. Crawl your site and eliminate or replace any 404 or 301 links
    3. Canonicalize pages to avoid duplicates
    4. Use unique title tags on every page
  32. Develop an SEO Strategy And Incorporate “The Skyscraper Technique”

    1. Develop a strategy for earning inbound editorial links from trusted and relevant sites
    2. Develop a strategy for choosing keywords with product relevance, limited competition, and significant traffic
    3. “The Skyscraper Technique” is about outperforming the usefulness of the highest ranking pages for search engine queries, and contacting those who linked to the original to tactfully recommend linking to your new resource
  33. Put A Testing Process In Place For Your Landing Pages

    1. A/B test your landing pages to determine which performs best
    2. Focus on testing the messaging or the fundamental concept of the landing page, as opposed to making small individual tweaks
  34. Acquire A List Of Leads And Offer An Incentive To The First 100 Lucky Signups

    1. Incentives could include free use of the SaaS for life, a discount, or even a reward, depending on the type of product and the target audience
    2. Verify that the acquired list consists of people who are a good fit for the product
  35. Keep Pre-Launch Leads And Signups In A Special List To Convert Them Into Brand Advocates

    1. Pre-launch leads are likely to be the biggest believers in your product and deserve VIP treatment
    2. Your earliest signups are likely to reciprocate with word of mouth on top of their loyalty
    3. Your earliest signups may also make for ideal beta testers for any new features you plan on implementing

Am I missing out on any other point to add to this checklist? Let me know in the comments below.

(Image Credits – 1. Featured image purchased from iStockPhoto 2. In-post images taken from

Scott Offord is the Co-Founder of Preceptist. As an entrepreneur, Scott enjoys identifying and reaching new business markets, growing online communities and partnering with business start-ups. With a strong background in the field of web design and development, Scott currently focuses on directing the search engine optimization, content marketing and paid search consulting services for the Preceptist client base. When he is not obsessing over cryptocurrencies or Google Analytics, Scott also spends as much time as possible with his wife, his daughter and his Great Dane.